Last year, we wrote a letter addressed to our community on size inclusivity, specifically customers who wear our size 3. It had been a little over a year in the making, and we announced that we were going to be adding our signature styles like the Sideswept Dhoti, Classic Wideleg, Lounge Lunghi, and Modern Monpe to our size 3 range.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve gotten quite a number of messages asking us to increase our size 3 range, and to consider adding on a size 4 range. We admit, we haven’t been able to take action to these suggestions as quickly as we want to. However, as a brand grounded on transparency, we believe that it is important that our community is in the know about what goes on behind the scenes. So here is a little insight into some aspects of our production and the reasons why sometimes we face certain obstacles that forces us to (temporarily!) compromise some of our big goals and dreams regarding size inclusivity.
Hitting The “Minimum Number”
Let’s start with the technical aspects of production. Whenever we place an order with our artisan partners, they let us know the minimum number of sales needed. As is expected with any garment production, they provide us with these numbers to maximise all the cuttings involved in making a garment and minimise waste across the process. Making a single garment includes a multitude of patterns, all of which need to be cut separately, so it’s not operationally possible for the factory to accept an order without establishing a minimum number of sales we need to hit. What this actually means: the more sizes we order, the higher this ‘minimum number’ goes up.
For example, if we make 2 sizes, we usually order approximately 100 pieces. When placing orders for our size 1 and 2, this typically looks like an equal distribution of 50 pieces each. However, if we want to expand these 2 sizes to, let’s say, 4 sizes, we can’t just cap the order at 100 – we’ll have to order approximately 160 pieces (per style), so that it makes operational sense for our factories to create and cut each size pattern. That’s nearly a 60 percent increase in the pieces we order. This also means that the costs that we’re putting in production also gets exponentially higher, much higher than our budget as a smaller brand can afford.
Supply and Demand
As a business standing on the pillars of ethics and inclusivity, we believe that the demands of every customer, size 3 or petite, should be met to the best of our abilities. That being said, however, it is unfortunately a reality that our size 3 pieces do not sell very quickly.
Continuing with our hypothetical situation, let’s say we ordered a jumpsuit in 3 sizes, with a total order of 160 pieces. Usually, the ratio would be 10 pieces in size 3, with the remaining 150 pieces distributed between sizes 1 and 2. This is what usually happens next: pieces in size 1 and 2 sell out nearly immediately, while the remaining size 3 pieces stay in our inventory for up to a year (and sometimes more). Which brings us to an unfortunate catch-22 situation: because until all the pieces are equally sold out across the 3 sizes, we are unable to place another order of this jumpsuit.
Although we pride ourselves in creating seasonless styles, this obstacle transcends the concept of fast and slow fashion – it is difficult for us, as a brand, to have the same style being sold on our website for years on end. This issue also touches on a matter of sustainability. We constantly want to be aware of the environmental impact of our production, even when we’re focusing on improving our size inclusivity.
Marketing and Catering
Another obstacle that we face with size inclusivity is finding our market and keeping track of demand. Although we put a lot of effort in our market research, one of our concerns is that we haven’t been able to reach our plus size demographic properly, within Asia and beyond.
In the spirit of full transparency, right now, our customer base is nearly 50/50: 50 percent Singaporean and 50 percent overseas customers. Our market research for the former is relatively easy, what with local pop-up events and offline face time. That is precisely how and why we decided to add a petite range, because there were more customers asking for a smaller size.
On the contrary, when researching on US and European customers, we can only deduce our market based on our remote research. Right now, we are under the impression that our sizes P, 1, 2, and 3 fit the majority of our community (US sizes 0 to 14). But we also know that the average size of an American customer is size 14, which is why we’ve committed to doing more market research and data analysis within our community to better understand the details needed to increase our sizing grade. We really want to work on this because we truly want to create styles and sizes that can cater to our community.
With that said, we have a system to decide which styles to expand sizes on. Seeing that customer feedback is the priority, most of our decisions actually come from your comments. However, we also look at the flexibility and fit of our styles as well. Whenever the natural adjustments of a style isn’t feasible, we try to make it our top priority to expand sizes in that style. For example, one feedback we got regarding the Side Lunghi was the fact that the leg space was much too narrow, and we found that it was not versatile enough so that size 1s and 2s could be adjusted organically to fit more sizes. As a result, we made the Side Lunghi a priority when expanding sizes. On the contrary, for styles like the Lounge Lunghi, the versatile wrap and tie closure allows it to be a flexible fit with a couple of adjustments.
Now that we’d laid out some of our behind-the-scenes concerns and obstacles, we’d also like to talk about the actionable part of it all. It goes without saying that we have not, and will not, give up on our dream of size inclusivity and advocacy of acceptance.
Here’s what we’re doing now: at the end of this year, we’ll send out a questionnaire to our size 2 and 3 customers to get a clearer understanding of what you want. We’re also planning to include models in our size 2 and size 3 styles onto our online catalogue. The reason being twofold: to have a more diverse representation across our platforms, and so that it would be easier for you to visual what our styles would look like on yourself. As for plans for style-specific size expansions, we recently got feedback that the fit of the top in the Work Jumpsuit was much too restricting. So for our next order, we are planning to order it in both size P and 3.
When we began in 2014, we knew that we would never be a fashion label, nor had the desire to be, and so we focus on making the best product possible, not the most. We make small changes to each style in our stable of core products based on continual customer feedback – a top stitch here, a revision of an inch there, because we know we can always be better. Transparency and clear communication has always been one of our top priorities, and continual feedback from our #mattertribe community keep our ear on the ground for how to improve; we know we’ve got miles to go till we sleep.
As always, if you have any questions or comments just leave it below.